Update from Potato Processors Association of Australia
Australians love their chips, and whether we are referring to French Fries or Crisps the good news is that most of these products are Australian grown and processed. While there is volume of French fry product being imported, the outlook for Australian production is encouraging in the medium-term, with processed volumes increasing and processors undertaking major capital development.
The main summer season production is wrapping up, with quality and yields the best for many seasons.
Australian-based processors are represented by the Potato Processors Association of Australia (PPAA). The focus of the group is to ensure that the processor levy is invested in R&D that will protect and enhance our domestic production.
One such area of investment is the recently launched PotatoLink, a Hort Innovation-funded potato industry communication and extension program. The processor levy is funding half of this initiative, which is being delivered by Applied Horticultural Research (AHR) and managed by Peter O’Brien, a potato industry expert with extensive national and international experience.
A robust communications and extension program is key to ensuring that any agricultural industry achieves returns from their R&D investment. PotatoLink has been developed on the back of an industry needs analysis that was funded by Hort Innovation and undertaken by RMCG in early 2019. As a result of this analysis, PotatoLink will be tailored for each region and delivered by local trusted delivery partners.
One of the key focuses of the program will be ‘growing right’. As a high input crop, good planning and having the basics right goes a long way to mitigating production risks and maximising yield. This focus on growing right will be supported by a Potato Handbook, which is being created by a SA group called Ag Communicators and funded via Hort Innovation.
For those growers who have the basics of production well in hand, PotatoLink will offer access to the latest in production innovation with linkage to the most recent in R&D developments and integration with Soil Wealth, VegNET and international initiatives.
The PPAA look forward to partnering in the PotatoLink initiative and hope to see you at an extension event in the not-too-distant future.
Next season planning
For those of you that are starting to plan for the next growing season, you might be interested to work through the following checklist to make sure all your bases are covered for the next season.
- Review the last season with your field officer and agronomist and decide what improvements you can make to increase yield, quality and reliability. What is working well for you and what could be improved? Are there different ways to approach things that might give you a better outcome?
- Create a new plan and work through it with your agronomist and company field officer. Advanced planning for the next few seasons always pays dividends.
- It’s a good idea to organise your contractors for the season. They like to know what work they have for the year.
- Negotiate hard with your suppliers for the best deal and conditions. If necessary, talk with your bank manager about an overdraft to cover the year’s crop costs.
- Review staff requirements for health and safety training for potato operations.
- Select the paddocks you intend to plant considering the paddock history, year of the last potato crop and what varieties have been grown in the paddock. Consider planning beyond the next season.
- Clean up the cropping area and remove self-sown potatoes.
- Soil fertility samples should be taken and a decision on fertiliser made. Make sure you order your fertiliser and gypsum.
- Talk to your agronomist about using PREDICTA Pt to test for soil borne pathogens.
- For those of you who are leasing land, make sure these deals are close to finalisation if not finalised. A formal agreement is a good idea so that everyone is clear as to who is responsible for what etc.
- Check your purchased seed – how is it holding, is the coolstore operating well?
- Plan for when you should be starting to warm seed to meet your planting times.
- Talk to your seed growers about your expectation for the following season’s seed requirements in regard to size, tonnes, cultivars, planting schedule, quality, etc. Seed growers need to know what they should be striving to achieve.
- If your seed is contract cut, talk with the contractor about cut size and any treatment you might want applied.
- Make sure your planter is ready and the winter maintenance is done.
- Have a planting plan that is worked back from your contract tonnes and delivery schedule.
- Check in with your agronomist about the suitability of chemistries as furrow sprays.
- Do you have enough water? Are your irrigators ready to go?
- Finally, at the start of each paddock or new seed line spend some time checking your seed piece spacing, seed piece depth, fertiliser placement and fertiliser rate. It will be time well spent.
There’s an old saying that you can’t manage what you don’t measure, so keeping accurate records from the start of the season is always advisable. These records are also a good basis for processor food safety records and can include soil test results, seed certification results, seed cutting results and so on.
Find out more
For more information or to provide your feedback to the Potato Processors Association of Australia, please contact Anne Ramsay on 0400 368 448 or at email@example.com.